Chuck Leavell Profile
Chuck Leavell has been pleasing the ears of music fans for more than 30 years now. His piano and keyboard work has been heard on the works of Eric Clapton, The Rolling Stones, The Black Crowes, George Harrison, The Allman Brothers Band, The Indigo Girls, Blues Traveler, Train, Montgomery-Gentry, Lee Ann Womack and many, many more. In addition to being a well established pianist/artist in the music industry, Leavell is also a published author, long time tree farmer, co-founder of the popular website The Mother Nature Network, and keeps busy with his advocacy work on behalf of the environment.
At the age of 13, Chuck got the opportunity to see Ray Charles in concert. He recalls, "Ray and the band played an incredible show, and it had such an impact on me that I made up my mind there and then that that was what I wanted to do. I decided that night what I wanted as my career." When he was 15, Leavell made his way to Muscle Shoals, AL, and the legendary studios there, where he played on several records, including Freddy North's soul classic Don't Take Her, She's All I've Got.
In 1969 Chuck moved to Macon, GA, where Southern music impresario Phil Walden had recently opened Capricorn Records and studio. There he worked his way through the ranks recording and touring with Alex Taylor (brother of James Taylor), Dr. John, country legend Kitty Wells, The Marshall Tucker Band and others. In 1972 having just turned 20 years old, Leavell was asked to join the Allman Brothers Band. The first album he recorded with the band was Brothers and Sisters, which included the classics "Ramblin' Man" and "Jessica." The album hit number one on Billboard's Pop charts, and he went on to record several more albums with them before the Allmans disbanded.
Emerging from the break-up of the Allman Brothers Band, Leavell formed the rock/jazz/blues fusion group Sea Level with Allman's drummer Jaimoe. The band toured relentlessly during the late ‘70s and released five critically acclaimed albums. Catching the ears of and becoming friends with the late rock ‘n' roll impresario Bill Graham and keyboardist Ian Stewart, the original "sixth" Rolling Stone, in 1982 he was invited to assume a significant keyboardist/vocalist role for the Stones that continues today. Says guitarist Keith Richards: "Without the continuity that Chuck brings to us, the Stones would not be the Stones." Leavell describes his role with the Stones as a "sort of musical navigator" who keeps track of arrangements and keeps things balanced in addition to spicing up the music with his keyboards. In 1999, Leavell released his first seasonal album, What's In That Bag? on Capricorn Records. Since that time it has become a holiday favorite and it continues to rate highly every year in Christmas CD sales.
In 2001, Leavell released Forever Blue: Solo Piano, a collection of seven original songs and three classics including "Georgia On My Mind." With this release, Leavell reached down deep in his soul and his roots and created an extraordinary piece of work. Forever Blue is still one of the most popular solo pianos CDs around. His next release, Southscape has been described as "Southern Jazz", and is Leavell's musical portrait of the south he grew up in and still lives in today. The nine tracks include eight new songs written or co-written by Leavell and a wonderful re-visitation of the classic "Jessica" that he is so well known for.
The record-breaking 2005-2007 Rolling Stones' "A Bigger Bang" tour marked Chuck's 25th year with the band, and the 147 show tour proved yet again that the Stones are indeed the "World's Greatest Rock ‘n Roll Band." But Leavell didn't stop at the end of that tour...he immediately put a band together in Germany and did his own tour of Europe in September of ‘07 called "Green Leaves and Blue Notes" that resulted in his double disc live recording, "Live In Germany", released in spring of 2008. Since then, he has continued recording with various including, the Montgomery-Gentry Band, Miranda Lambert, Heidi Newfield, and two new Nashville artists, Lady Antebellum and David Nail. He also recorded with Mike Gordon of Phish on his "The Green Sparrow" CD. More recently he has focused on a new book and CD that are in the works and spent much of his time on The Mother Nature Network (mnn.com), a comprehensive environmental website that he co-founded with his partner, Joel Babbit, in January of ‘09. MNN is now the number one most visited independent environmental website in the world.
In addition to his musical expertise, Leavell is also a respected authority on forestry and conservation. In 2001, he penned "Forever Green: The History and Hope of the American Forest." This book is now in its second printing in the U.S. and has been translated and released in Germany and Austria. Leavell is a highly sought after speaker on the subject, invited by various committees, environmental officials and high level government officials to share his knowledge and help shape forest policy in America. Along with several conservation recognitions, he and his wife Rose Lane were given the ultimate honor for their outstanding management of their own forestland, Charlane Plantation in Macon, Georgia, by being named National Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year in 1999. Today, Leavell plays a strong role in environmental issues in the US and beyond. He is a Board member of several important and influential organizations including the American Forest Foundation, the US Endowment for Forests and Communities, the Georgia Land Conservation Council and others. His name is well known on Capitol Hill for his advocacy work on behalf of the environment, and he has played a solid role in forming the forest component of the past two US Farm Bills.
Leavell's autobiography entitled "Between Rock and a Home Place" has garnered flattering reviews with one critic even declaring it the "best rock autobiography ever." Taking the reader from his early days as an upstart musician in Alabama in the late ‘60s to his classic ‘70s years with the Allman Brothers Band, Sea Level and his many sessions as a premiere sideman to his more than 25 years with the Rolling Stones and much more in-between, this book rocks. Leavell also discusses his passion for forestry and the environment as well as his dedication to his family. The book has been translated into Japanese and released there in 2008.
In late 2006, Leavell released his third book, a wonderful children's book called "The Tree Farmer". Beautifully illustrated by Rebecca Bleau, it has won several top awards including the "Growing Good Kids" honor; the "Media Award" from The National Arbor Day Foundation; and a special "Book of the Year" award from the American Farm Bureau. He also and manages plenty of time to work on Charlane Plantation, his beloved hunting and pristine pine forest plantation.
Back in the late 90's People Magazine called Chuck Leavell "the sixth Rolling Stone," but accompanying the story was a picture of him hugging a tree. The New York Times, meanwhile, says he's "a man who can see the forest for the trees and helps nurture it" in a story topped by a picture of Leavell onstage with Mick Jagger. The truth is that Leavell is all those things - and more. He's one of music's most respected and sought-after pianists, a devoted husband, father and grandfather, and a modest man who has a knack for taking his talents to the right places at the right times. At his home in rural Georgia, you can find Leavell working in the woods, playing his piano and declaring he's fortunate to have three real passions in his life: "My family, my trees and my music," he says. "I have no intentions of slowing down in music now!! Maybe one day I will hang up my rock ‘n' roll shoes... and if so, it will be right here on a pine tree."